On June 6, 1972, Ziggy Stardust was born. In “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, arguably the best of David Bowie’s 25 albums, Ziggy Stardust, the androgynous, glamorous, and just overall weird alien was introduced. He was a big part of what drove so many to David Bowie. After the romantic, flowery idealism of 60’s music, 70’s rock introduced a darker, lavish, debauched period of both music and stars, David Bowie being one of the characters at the helm. Ziggy was someone that both all and none could relate to. He represented the very meaning of being an outcast, of not being able to find your place in society, a big theme in that times youth. He characterized this glittery, untouchable character, an alien, who dressed in clothes that weren’t at all in accordance with the traditional view of masculinity, but also weren’t quite feminine. He was bisexual, inspiring a very bicurious generation. He was not afraid to be himself, or so it appeared. Of course, keeping up a flawless character is never easy. David Bowie was said to live on “milk, peppers and cocaine” and weighed just 95 pounds.
And naturally, it wasn’t just the character that attracted people to Bowie. The music was the first of its kind, that of “glam-rock”. It was more about the feeling of the music than the music itself. Even Bowie himself said that he was never an outstandingly good singer, but lucky for him, audiences saw behind that into the emotions of the songs and the lyrics. David Bowie also has some really beautiful lyrics, such as, “Oh no, love! You’re not alone /You’re watching yourself, but you’re too unfair /You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care” from “Rock ‘n Roll Suicide” and “And lady stardust sang his songs/Of darkness and disgrace” from “Lady Stardust” (and those are only examples from “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”!). The album was one of those rare albums that really captured the feel of the time. The hope and desire for more in “Star”, and the anger and passion of “Rock ‘n Roll Suicide” really give you a look into the early ’70’s. Many songs spoke eloquently about the social and global issues of that time. In “Suffragette City”, Bowie sang about the rise of feminism, and how there was no going back on it now (in a positive way, of course). “Five Years” is about the ending of our planet (eerily foretelling the worries about global warming of today), saying “News guy wept and told us/Earth, was really dying”, and using this to emphasize that life is short, so you have to be impulsive!
My personal favorite on the album is “Starman,” which talks about Bowie’s belief that there is a God out there, and that we do have a plan in life. A lot of songs during this time were steeped in existential crisis, so this provides a refreshing change. It also has a beautiful, sweeping chorus that is easy to sing along to.
This album and the character of Ziggy Stardust really embodied the early seventies, and the fact that weird can be cool, untraditional can be hip, and that the best thing to be is yourself. Continue reading “The Rise of Ziggy Stardust Remembered”